One of the greatest paradoxes in our human condition is that we seek acceptance from a greater collective, when all we need in order to find fulfillment and satisfaction is one single Other from among those strange billions. Just one, somebody with whom you can lock eyes, who will say, "I understand you." These two competing urges, for community and communion, define our lives; in the gap between them is complexity, unfulfillment, broken hearts and minds. The gulf that separates x
and 1 can be the width of a spiritual galaxy. It's easy to get lost.
Our urge to belong can turn all-consuming. We seek membership in nations, teams and tribes. We wave flags, show the colors, display the icons... we identify ourselves as ones among others -- instead of ones apart. We willingly subsume our own unique identities to greater wholes. We gather in groups. If we stand singly, we run the risk of being the only one
, completely and totally alone.
The larger the group, the more powerful its magnetic force. Call it pack mentality, or herd behavior, or the proof behind the social theories of Georg Simmel
. Collectives have gravitational attraction based on their size. If we see a collected crowd of a hundred thousand, we presume that people have gathered for something very important. We are curious. For a sparse group of a thousand, or just a hundred, we might question its relevance. Oh, it's nothing. We want to be in the big crowd; if there's something that 100 million people are doing, it's only right that we do it too. For whatever reason, we're wired to be one of
a million than one in
And why have these people gathered, now, on this weekend? Is it to stand in allegiance with a timeless prophet whose ideas changed the world? Is it to stand as one political party, one country, one city? Could it be to show solidarity to a cause, or to support a shared struggle? No, not this time. They have come together to celebrate a game. This is a grand party for a false sport, the worst that humans have ever invented.
The wisdom of crowds. That a lot of other people care is the only reason why the Super Bowl is what it is. It's the only explanation why American-Style Football is so prominent in our country's culture. We can see this dynamic working in other American sports; we're offered constant reminders why the National Hockey League is irrelevant, for instance. It's hard to ignore the growing number of folks who follow World-Style Football and use vaguely Continental terminology, in hopes of identifying themselves to others who affect the same false sophistication. Can't blame them, though, they're just looking for community. There's certainly very little here; to love mid-major college basketball six months a year, in the face of overwhelming "who cares," constitutes an act of foolish bravery.
As far as the sport in question goes, however, it's difficult to divine its actual value. I have no idea why others enjoy it.
It's certainly not for the non-stop action. According to painful, grueling research performed by the Wall Street Journal
, there are only 11 minutes of actual football in American-Style Football
minutes. That's the length of a barely-satisfying sexual encounter. In a three-hour televised game, actual action represents 6.1 percent of the presentation. In between, there are 67 minutes of standing around, 17 minutes of replays, and a whole lot of commercials. DirecTV gives subscribers commercial-free 30-minute "condensed games" on Monday mornings, and those
are padded. In Our Game, 40 minutes out of the two hours are spent running and jumping -- a full third.
But the worst part of American-Style Football is the fake violence. With all these heavily padded and protected players, it's like watching tanks driving into each other, sold as something dangerous and sexy. Because when actual mayhem breaks out
, people get frightened and deranged. Some might even voice strong opinions
. American-Style Football represents the barrel's bottom of our American character; we're obsessed with weaponry and war tactics... but all it takes is one orchestrated strike to send us into a crazed tailspin, stumbling around the world like a blindfolded drunk, looking for revenge.
I offer this challenge to any American-Style Football fan. Imagine that you were the only one, the only fan on earth. There is a championship game on, and you're completely alone. There's nobody to talk to.
Would you still love this game? Is there enough on the field to hold your interest? What are you doing during the 94 percent of game time when there's no game? Is there enough violence to satiate your bloodlust? (Wouldn't you rather be watching a nice MMA event?) What the hell are you doing, watching this thing that nobody cares about?
Yes, it's that time of year again
. We've reached the culmination of another season of fake fighting and play-acted boardroom procedurals
, and because they moved the all-star game to last weekend, this really is it
It's been a personal tradition for nearly two decades now, but this will be the third edition of my public version of this project. I will be the last person in America to know who won the Super Bowl.
Two years ago, I holed myself up in a motel in northeastern Pennsylvania for 36 hours afterwards. I lasted until Tuesday, when the Valparaiso student section hit me with The Knowledge
. It became a dangerous game; a group of kids with a giant banner went around trying to figure out which hotel I was staying at. In 2009, I didn't even last 16 hours. I was undone by a perky stewardess
on a flight between Omaha and Chicago.
Not this time, though. This year, I will be in complete hiding. My e-mail will be off, the texting capabilities of my phone disabled, and every attempt to inform me will be averted (and last year, there were hundreds). Nobody will know my whereabouts, but I will tell you that a forest is involved. I will have to travel at some prearranged point, but my itinerary will remain a sssecret. The "next stop" on the TMM travel map will be blacked out. I will send out dispatches from my hidden location, there will be a countup clock here on the site. I will do everything I can to keep away from The Knowledge until at least Wednesday evening, when I will break my personal record (1988). This is the year, this is the time. "Own the Moment?" Sorry, bitches, this one's mine
Also, make sure to watch this space on Sunday for the Final Ultimate Showdown
between Bally and his nemesis Footbally. If you've been following along with the Sunday Funnies this year, you know that this is going to be Sunday Bloody
. It's all been leading up to this.
---Games! Of! The! Weekend!
All games are on Saturday (Snowpocalypse II willing), check your local listings.Xavier at Dayton (Atlantic 14)
-- X (8-1) is on a four-game streak, shooting the best percentages in the A-14, and is not declaring self-imposed sanctions to the NCAA. Dayton (4-3) is still trying to dig themselves out of a tough stretch during which the Flyers lost a pair of one-pointers to Saint Joe's and Rhode Island, not something you can do in a league where the top teams are gaining serious separation. Xavier's current Achilles is down-low D, something that UD will be unlikely to exploit. It's live on ESPN2 at noon o'clock.Oral Roberts at Oakland (Badlands)
-- Nothing like another Golden ORU-OU matchup in the Badlands Conference to make you want to put on your O-Face
! The G'Grizzlies (11-1) and G'Eagles (9-3) form an IUPUI (9-2) sandwich at the top of the league. After a tough month on a basketball and institutional level, Oral Roberts has used great defense to reverse its hooping fortunes, winning four straight to get back into the thick of the chase. Oakland's been putting up 80 a game, and can only be defeated with a stellar shooting night. Six o'clock Eastern time, be there.Kent State at Central Michigan (Mid-American)
-- Kent's won six in a row to run its league record to 7-2, setting up a throwdown-showdown between the MAC's division leaders. Central is 6-2 in the weak West, and a Flashes blowout here would be a strong leading indicator that the semifinals in Cleveland would turn out to be three Eastern teams, one of which will be lucky enough to get a virtual bye to the title game. Again. Old Dominion at Virginia Commonwealth (Colonial)
-- We're aware that there are some people out there who are saying that a multi-bid CAA is a gimme, because of the bad Pac-10 or whatever. Reasonable doubt says that any extra at-large holes would be filled by ACC and Big XII teams, because... well, they get to play ACC and Big XII teams for the rest of the year, and CAA teams don't. The key to any two-bid Colonial would likely include ODU (10-2) running the table, just like they did back in 2007. It's a winning formula. If the Monarchs can continue to shoot holes in VCU's profile (8-4), they'll be well on their way. Binghamton at Maine (America East)
-- At the beginning of the season, if you were to tell me that Binghamton and Maine would be fighting for top seeds in the ex-NAC, I would have said you were crazy! The applesauce kind of crazy! But both teams are 6-3, and the winner of this one slides into a second-place tie (with Vermont) behind 8-2 Stony Brook. If you weren't aware of Bingo's four-game winning streak and general gutty play in the wake of the preseason housecleaning, get on board. I only hope that if the Bearcats find a way back to the Dance, they get as much press as the sex, drugs and shoplifting did a year ago.Nevada at Utah State (WAC)
-- The U-Agz are 7-2 in league play (after an 0-2 start) and sit at No. 10 in our TS-24 rankings. They've really pulled themselves up out of the WAC wreckage. Nevada at 5-3: poised, dangerous, Babbitt
. The hate runs deep; you can throw the records out when the Wolf Pack and Aggies go at it, and why haven't you done so already? You some kind of DJ or something? Everybody keeps their sh*t on a Zune
now, old man. Game's at 9 pm on ESPNU.
Now, where's my Robot? Did I, or did I not, order a freaking Robot?